The TCU Horned Frogs came into the 2015 campaign with lofty expectations. They had just finished the previous year No. 3 overall with a 12-1 record. Just missing out on making the playoffs.

They opened up 8-0, but injuries took their toll down the stretch, as they lost 2 of their last 4 to go 10-2. They would improve to 11-2 with an improbable 47-41 win over Oregon in the Alamo Bowl (trailed 0-31 at half).

The 2016 campaign will be the 16th under head coach Gary Patterson. There’s differing opinions on which direction they are headed. Some think they are a still a legit threat to win the Big 12, while others are picking them in the bottom half of the league.

Oddsmakers have their win total set at just 8.5, but also give them the 2nd best odds to win the conference at +550.

Last Season
Big 12
Record
ATS Record
Over/Under
Points For
Points Against
7-2 (T-2nd)
11-2
7-6
6-7
42.1
27.2
2016 Schedule
DateOpponentSpread (Est.)Win Chance
9/3South Dakota State
9/10Arkansas
9/17Iowa State
9/23@ SMU
10/1Oklahoma
10/8@ Kansas
10/22@ West Virginia
10/29Texas Tech
11/5@ Baylor
11/19Oklahoma State
11/29@ Texas
12/3Kansas State
Estimated Wins: TBD

TCU will open the season with three straight at home. The biggest challenge coming in Week 2 against Arkansas. That’s a game I’ll be watching closely, as it will tell us a lot about where they stand.

They then open up Big 12 play against ISU before finishing up non-conference play at SMU.

Then comes the first real challenge inside the conference at home against Oklahoma. If they can pull off the upset, they could definitely make a run at a Big 12 title.

After a couple of road games at West Virginia and Kansas, they host Texas Tech. This is a critical 3-game stretch, as they figure to be favored in all 3.

Things really pick up down the stretch. They travel to Baylor, host Oklahoma State, visit Texas and get K-State at home. Overall it’s a favorable schedule with just 5 road games. Especially with two of those coming against SMU and Kansas.

Roster Breakdown

Last year the Horned Frogs offense exploded for 46.5 ppg and 533 ypg, an incredible improvement from the 25.1 ppg and 345 ypg they put up in 2013. The biggest reason for that, was the maturation of starting quarterback Trevone Boykin. After throwing for just 1,198 yards with 7 touchdowns and 7 interceptions as a sophomore (spent time at wide receiver), Boykin shocked the Big 12 and the country by throwing for 3,901 yards with 33 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions, while also adding another 707 yards and 8 scores on the ground. Boykin returns for his senior season and it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if the Heisman hopeful guided the TCU offense to an even better year in 2015.

Not only do the Horned Frogs get back their star quarterback, but they return 10 of their 11 starters from last year. The only loss being starting left tackle Tayo Fabuluje. While Fabuluje was a 3rd-Team All-Big 12 performer, the offensive line doesn’t figure to suffer any set backs with his departure. Senior Halapoulivaati Vaitai will (2nd-Team All-Big 12) will move from right tackle to left tackle, while the interior features 3 potential all-conference players in senior guards Brady Foltz and Jamelle Naff and senior center Joey Hunt.

All of the major weapons are back at the skill positions. Their top rusher returns in senior Aaron Green (922 yards, 9 TDs), as well as their top three options at wide receiver in Josh Doctson (1,018 yards, 11 TDs), Kolby Listenbee (753 yards, 4 TDs) and Deante’ Gray (582 yards, 8 TDs).

While the offense basically has everyone back, the Horned Frogs are going to need some new faces to step up on the defensive side of the ball. TCU has just 5 returning starters back and has to replace 6 of their top 7 tacklers from last year from a unit that allowed just 19.0 ppg and 342 ypg.

It is worth noting that Patterson has consistently sent out a strong defense in his tenure at Fort Worth and with the talent he has coming back up front on the defensive line, there’s a good chance TCU’s defense only suffers a minor setback. They do lose 2nd-Team All-Big 12 defensive tackle Chucky Hunter, but welcome back 3 senior starters and add in Nebraska transfer Aaron Curry to fill the void left by Hunter.

The big question mark facing the defense, is how they handle the loss of both starting linebackers (run a 4-2-5 scheme) as well as their starting strong safety, who primarily acts as a 3rd linebacker. The losses including 1st-Team All-American linebacker Paul Dawson, 2nd-Team All-Big 12 linebacker Marcus Mallet and 1st-Team All-Big 12 safety Sam Carter. Junior linebacker Sammy Douglas and junior strong safety Denzel Johnson are both likely to start, while as many as four freshmen (3 true, 1 red-shirt) figure to play big roles.

The secondary loses 1st-Team All-Big 12 safety Chris Hackett and 2nd-Team All-Big 12 corner Kevin White, but are much better shape than they are at linebacker. They get back starting safety Derrick Kindred and talented sophomore corner Ranthony Texada (Freshman All-American). The pass defense likely won’t be as good as it was last year, but it should remain one of the top units in the Big 12.

Last year the defense was really hit hard with injuries and it showed in the numbers. TCU went from giving up 19.0 ppg in 2014 to allowing 27.2 ppg in 2015. All signs point to a big improvement in 2016. Not only do they have 8 starters back, but several others who they lost to injury.

Up front they lose 1st Team Big 12 defensive tackle Davion Pierson, but are in much better shape. Last year at tackle, senior Aaron Curry started 9 games and junior Chris Bradley started 8. Added to the mix will be sophomore Breylin Mitchell, who they are very high on (could start).

At defensive end they get back senior Josh Carraawy, who was 1st Team All-Big 12 last year. They also welcome back senior James McFarland, who missed all of last year. McFarland had 7 sacks in just 6 starts in 2014.

One of the problems last year was the linebacking corps was completely depleted. TCU didn’t have a single player back who had started a game in his career. This year they get back both starters. ¬†Sophomore Montrel Wilson and junior Travin Howard. You could also include senior strong safety Denzel Johnson in this group. While technically a safety in their 4-2-5 scheme, he’s essentially a linebacker.

The big hole in the secondary is at free safety, where they have to replace Derrick Kindred. They also lose starting corner Corry O’Meally. Returning are junior corner Ranthony Texada and junior safety Nick Orr. They also added in highly regarded juco transfer Markell Simmons to replace Kindred. With improved play up front, this unit should be on par or even better in 2016.

Future Odds
Regular Season Win Total
Big 12 Championship Odds
Playoff Odds
National Championship Odds
8.5
+550
+850
+5200
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
Season Predictions

When you really look at the roster and past the mere 11 returning starters, there’s a lot to like about this team. It’s not very often you lose a talent like Boykin at quarterback and can expect limited drop off. Same thing could be said at wide receiver, where the loss of a player like Doctson could cripple some teams.

Factor in the schedule and TCU isn’t just a threat to win the Big 12, but are in the mix for a playoff spot. I’m not quite ready to predict a conference title, but I do have them finishing T-2nd in the Big 12 at 6-3.

Keep in mind that their magical run in 2014 came on the heels of a 4-8 campaign in 2013. As long as the injuries don’t mount up again in 2016, Patterson will have them playing at an elite level. It just comes down to whether they can take care of business on the road and upset Oklahoma.

2016 Projections
Big 12
Big 12 Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
T-2nd
6-3
9-3
OVER 8.5
More College Football Predictions
Big 12 Conference